Intelligence-led policing urged

By Patrick Denny
Stabroek News
August 23, 1999

An intelligence-led approach to policing and the setting up of a Crime Prevention Unit are among measures proposed by a UK adviser to beef up the efforts of the Guyana Police Force (GPF).

In a report submitted following a visit here in February this year, the United Kingdom's Caribbean Regional Police Adviser, Paul Matthias said that given the limited human and material resources at its disposal, this approach is the only way to enhance the image of the force.

Intelligence-led policing is defined as the use of information collected from various sources which is analysed and used to plan policing operations. This approach has been used to some extent by the police in targeting some well-known criminal figures and it has been suggested that it be extended to other areas, such as the fight against drugs and traffic control.

In recommending the shift to the intelligence-led policing approach, Matthias noted that the police "still rely on ad hoc collection of information, while reaction to events is principally demand-led and cannot control outcomes."

Also, while acknowledging that "shortage of staff is perceived as a real problem and one that prevents the police from being effective, he stressed that for any major organisation to compete and grow in the twenty-first century, it would "need reliable, accurate and timely information on which to brief its personnel and achieve results.

"While limited staff, lack of funding and outdated equipment will hamper the ability of the GPF to police effectively, it could be more successful if it adopted an 'intelligence-led' approach to policing."

It also noted that some emphasis on this approach was already being given by the police with the re-direction of intelligence gathering to cover criminal figures. It added that this approach allows for "active criminals, to be targeted in a way that will permit evidence to be gathered and a conviction gained at Court rather than the sometimes speculative pursuit of criminal 'X' because it is `suspected' he commits offences. Evidence is gathered about the individual rather than the offence and the probabilities of success outcomes are raised significantly."

Suggesting that this approach would also be more effective in the police's anti-narcotics campaign, Matthias observed that "given the concerns over drugs and firearms entering the country and the influence each can have on causing the commission of serious criminal offences, there is little substantial data known to the officers and community volunteers who work for the GPF."

However, Matthias warned that the intelligence-led approach has its dangers noting that there is the risk of certain sections of the police "seeing it as their role to collect information, while other sections/departments imagine they do not have that responsibility or even handle information."

He noted that it is the culture of police organisations among others that "those who collect information do not share it with others.

"Common systems of collecting data/information are not used so that it has no consistency value, no broad analytical value and no continuity for converting into intelligence."

The report pointed out that there has been concern over the flow of hard drugs through the country and increasing evidence of substance abuse by Guyanese. Data is limited, but Mathias said it was noted during his visit that the Guyana Defence Force appeared to have a better profile of drug problems and employed an intelligence-led approach to the selection and planning of operations.

The Mathias report, which has been kept under wraps since its submission, urged the setting up of a Crime Prevention Unit which could provide for the police to work with business groups and open up options for sponsorship ultimately leading to a wide range of professional and commercial skills being put at its disposal. The report noted that donor assistance could be accessed through this unit.

Matthias stated that "too much energy is being expended in reacting to crime committed and not enough into preventative programmes. It is not intended to be simplistic, but preventing crime reduces the fear of crime and leads to a more positive attitude towards becoming a victim of crime thereby reducing crime further. As a result, there is less crime to report and more time to devote to investigation, which can lead to more arrests, which means less crimes."

Matthias also noted that there are "many excellent schemes already in existence which need incorporation into a national strategy and promoted through the public relations unit.

"Just as crime prevention permits community groups an ideal entry point working with the police, so it [the Crime Prevention Unit] offers excellent opportunities for other groups such as business groups to become more involved and open up other options such as sponsorship, professional and commercial skills and effective and properly costed ideas.

"Equally, other institutions such as education, health, social services and local councils which may feel prevented from taking part in enforcement activities, feel a freedom to embrace preventive remedies." These approaches are being recommended as they could contribute to an enhancement of the image of the police force inside and outside Guyana and a reduction of the fear, real or imagined, among the Guyanese people, the report added.

"The menace of illegal drugs and illegal firearms is well known and documented. The people of Guyana and Caribbean neighbours deserve an accurate profile of the problems, an assessment risk of the threat to the government and people of Guyana and to know how to access the many resources made available by the global community to assist in fighting these menaces."

Matthias, during his visit had spent time with the top leadership of the police. He had also met then president Janet Jagan; Prime Minister, Sam Hinds; then finance minister Bharrat Jagdeo; Chief of Staff of the Guyana Defence Force, Major General Joe Singh; Director of Public Prosecutions, Denis Hanomansingh; and other government officials.

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Guyana: Land of Six Peoples